How To Tackle A Fifty-Year-Old Myth? Kennedy, Lodge, And The Diem Coup

Friday, January 21, 2022
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

The Diem Coup, in November 1963, resulted in the overthrow and assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. The coup caused great instability and led to the deployment of the first U.S. Marines to the beaches of Danang in March 1965, paving the way for full-blown American military involvement in Vietnam. The history of the coup, including the leading role of U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., was established through the dramatic leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. After more than 50 interviews with Lodge’s former colleagues, Luke Nichter began to challenge the coup’s conventional history, ultimately uncovering a secret recording of Kennedy and Lodge from August 15, 1963, transcribed and made public for the first time, which shifts our understanding of the coup’s origin.

Luke A. Nichter is a Professor of History and James H. Cavanaugh Endowed Chair in Presidential Studies at Chapman University. His area of specialty is the Cold War, the modern presidency, and U.S. political and diplomatic history, with a focus on the "long 1960s" from John F. Kennedy through Watergate. He is a noted expert on Richard Nixon's 3,432 hours of secret White House tapes, and a New York Times bestselling author or editor of seven books, the most recent of which is The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War. 

Luke’s next book project, under contract with Yale University Press, is tentatively titled The Making of the President, 1968: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, George Wallace, and the Election that Changed America, for which he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2020-2021. The book draws on interviews with approximately 85 family members and former staffers, in addition to extensive archival research involving first-time access to a number of key collections that will recast our understanding of the 1968 election.


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ABOUT THE PROGRAM

This talk is part of the History Working Group Seminar Series. A central piece of the History Working Group is the seminar series, which is hosted in partnership with the Hoover Library & Archives. The seminar series was launched in the fall of 2019, and thus far has included six talks from Hoover research fellows, visiting scholars, and Stanford faculty. The seminars provide outside experts with an opportunity to present their research and receive feedback on their work. While the lunch seminars have grown in reputation, they have been purposefully kept small in order to ensure that the discussion retains a good seminar atmosphere.

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